~reflections~musings~inspirations~insights~and life lessons learned by one who is
whole-heartedly, steadfastly, firmly in HIS grip~

Romans 1:6 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Baby Boy Turned Into a Man When I Wasn't Looking!

When I look at him my eyes see a young man; but my heart sees the little boy who during an ER visit for stitches in his chin looked up with terror on his face and crocodile tears in his eyes with great sobs gasp, “I …ahh…just… ahhh …wanna give… my ahhh… mommy a huugg.”

We’ve spent the past couple of days upstairs, his domain during his junior and high school years, going through closets and drawers. His idea…the sorting through of clothes he no longer wants to keep, tossing out long forgotten, broken toys that have avoided the trash bin by hiding in the crevices along the back wall. Pointing out to me the things I can pass along to his nephews, things he wants saved, organizing one last time.

Why do I have this catch in my lungs? It’s not like a hard blow…you know the kind that knocks the breath out of you; still I find it difficult to breathe normally. Just the thump, thump, thump beating in my chest as the time draws ever near for him to report to Fort Leonard Wood.

I’d been trying to get pregnant for two years when I found out that I couldn’t have anymore children. I was devastated and at the age of 23 had a complete and radical hysterectomy. Two years later I was a single mother with a partial education. Over the next ten years…life moved on as I quenched the desire for more children, joined the Navy Reserves and got an education. Funny how God works things out isn’t it? Off and on through the years I had prayed for a child. I could raise another right along with Richard, by myself. Problem was…all I knew was that I was praying to the God that lived in my great grandfather’s Bible.

Then Jimmy came along and introduced both Richard and I to the Lord. First Richard was saved, then me…then marriage. Can you believe it? Nine months after we were married on a Thursday night we found ourselves rushing to the hospital and in the wee hours of Friday morning a security guard told us the only baby doe in the nursery was a baby John Doe. We had a son! We had a son!

I can see that day as clear as if it happened yesterday. I can feel him the first time I held him, I can smell that sweet fresh baby smell just after bath time, I can hear his first “dada,” his “first I wuv you.” I held him for six months straight! I just could not imagine that God would bless me so abundantly, so quickly after I became a believer.

Sitting here, I see snapshots in my mind of pee-wee football, an ATA World Championship, golf, bowling, hunting and fishing excursions with his dad and brother (along with the stories of the one that got away) band and choir competitions, more football, more martial arts…wins, losses, triumph, heart break... I never realized time was slipping through my fingers.

As we had senior pictures made, ordered invitations, cap and gown…I told myself I was ready for this, but then I was still expecting to pay for college and thought he would be home regularly to at least do his laundry. I never expected the Army! We had talked about it when he was in the 9th grade and again in 10th. I was military…it was good for me…but my war was Desert Storm…this one is different, more difficult, more casualties.

As he excitedly talks about his future, about boot camp, AIT, and with a bit of hesitation... the possibility of being deployed to the war zone... and then coming home after four years and becoming a police officer…that catch in my lungs returns.

I have prayed for him his whole life, even before I knew he would be mine. I am a woman of faith, I know God has a plan, He has the bigger picture. We raise them to be independent, make their own decisions and then they go off and do it!

My question is…did it happen over night or so gradually that I didn’t notice until just now? My baby is a man…thump, thump, thump another day closer to boot camp…another day closer to MP school…another day closer to that first duty station.

What is it they say? HOOAH….Army Strong…
Oh my! Army mom!
Thump… thump… thump.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” ~NIV

Monday, July 14, 2008

Princess Isabella is a Thief!

We recently acquired a new puppy, an eight month old Chihuahua whom we named Princess Isabella. Jake calls her Dizzy Izzy and Jimmy calls her Taco Bell, but luckily for us, she will answer to just about anything.

We had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy around and it took us a while to get used to having a second dog in the house, especially one so tiny and loud! Poor Bruno just wanted to be her friend but it took her a couple of weeks to warm up to him and for her to get comfortable in her new surroundings. Now she thinks she runs the place!

Most small dogs like to find a high place to rest. It keeps them from getting stepped on and Isabella is no different. She loves the back of the couch and perches there to watch as I work or play on the computer, as she is doing now. She watches every move I make and is ready to pounce the minute I begin to get up for a cup of coffee or to turn the computer off.

One thing we have learned about our precious little princess is that she is a thief! It started one day when we couldn’t find the remote for the television in the living room. We had watched a movie the night before and instead of changing the set back to TV mode, we just turned it off. You know you can’t change that back with out the remote control, right? It was quite a sight at five in the morning searching the couch cushions, looking under chairs, between the arms of the recliner…searching to no avail and finally giving up and watching the morning news in the bedroom. A couple of days later while doing laundry the remote flew out of her carrier along with her “blankie.”

We never actually see her stealing things…remotes, pens and pencils from the cup on the desk, screw drivers, stray socks, wet washcloths from the side of the tub, pieces of aluminum foil from the trash, Jake’s watch from the coffee table…no we never see her taking them but we always know where to find them! Now we first look in her carrier or in her little pink bed and sure enough…there the missing treasure can be retrieved.

I really hate to make this comparison but she acts like the devil…he has come into the world to kill, steal, and destroy. The first time when we couldn’t find that remote…we turned the living room upside down searching and searching and finally gave up. Thankfully, while doing my household duties it showed up.

Like that dog, we never actually see the devil lurking around, perched watching our every move…waiting for us to step away from God just enough so he can get in there and steal something from us…happiness, children, spouses, energy, time, finances, enthusiasm, passion and before you know it he has a treasure trove of things that once belonged to us.

Sometimes, we look for those things in the wrong places…under the cushions in worldly places, between the arms of someone wrong…searching to no avail and finally giving up. However, if we do our duty…reading our Bible faithfully, attending church regularly, serving God, seeking HIM…what was stolen sometimes will fly right out at us while we are not looking. As we grow in the grace, mercy, and love of God we realize when something all of the sudden turns up missing all we have to do is look in those few places and retrieve what was stolen from us.

Are you missing something today? Has something been stolen from you? Don't look to the world for it's replacement...seek first the Kingdom of God...and you will find your missing treasures.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lord Send a Revival and Let it Begin in ME!

I have been reading A Global History of Christians and have just been through the Reformation, the Great Awakening, and The Second Great Awakening. How the preachers and their fiery brand of evangelism transformed the world in which they lived. Tent meetings and camp meetings sprang up not only in urban areas but on the edge of the western frontier. People couldn’t get enough of the Word of God! It kind of puts me in the mind of Acts chapter 2. Verse 37 ’When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38) Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the Holy Spirit."’ And we know what happened there, don’t we? Three thousand repented and were baptized! Brothers and Sisters, that is a revival!!!

I was thinking…what would happen if in the local park someone stood up with Bible in hand and began preaching repentance, baptism, and eternal life. Pointing out the condemnation of the soul-dead, weary masses, searching for meaning in the here and now. People trying to fill the holes in their hearts with possessions, careers, and the carnality of the world? Would people gather, share food, spend the night, stay there listening with rapt attention as long as the preacher spoke? Oh, I can see it now…who would be the first to call the police? Did they have the right permission and permits, had they paid the correct fees? If so, would they then be charged with disturbing the peace and be removed? Disturbing the conscience is more like it! Even "so called" Christians might accuse the evangelist of being a fanatic, an extremist, zealot, or worse…

Christians and society in general are comfortable with "church" taking place on Sundays in a building frequented by ’believers and seekers’ singing songs, giving an offering, listening to a sermon; getting a dose of heavenly love, righteousness and glory to soothe their minds so they can start their week off "right" then shaking hands and heading to lunch all before noon.

I must stop right here and tell you that my pastor is one of these fiery evangelists. I love it! I pray we would have visitors and regulars alike who would be ’cut to the heart.’ What would happen if this kind of evangelism burst forth from local pulpits everywhere? I guarantee it would cause quite a stir! Some would leave the "church" indignant if they actually caught a glimpse of the One True God, the Great I AM. Oh, but others…souls would be saved, lives changed, and a revival would break forth in this still sleeping giant we call America!

The song from Sister Act 2 rings in my ears. "Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me. We now need a revival to rock this world today, have it begin on another rampage that is how we pray. Lord send a revival, Lord send a revival, Lord send a revival... and let it begin in me!"

Psalm 139: 23 -24 (KJV)
(23)Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; (24) and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Will the revival begin in you?

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Sacrifice At All

It took me two years to actually make the decision to give up my job to stay home. The money was great; I especially loved those quarterly bonuses! Could I really give it up and all it represented? Then there was the personal fulfillment…as draining as it could be, I thrived on the mental challenge. I loved the creativity of marketing campaigns. I came alive as I talked someone into bringing a busload of people to visit "my" city. Oh, and the thrill when the itinerary was planned and the tour finally materialized! I reveled in the accolades. I prided myself on being the best in the country when other cities representatives would call me and ask for advice and training. As I served on local and national boards, sat on panel discussions and spoke at seminars, I felt accomplished. I would go from the national spotlight…to no spotlight and I would give it all up in one conversation over supper.

I had gone over the budget to make sure we could pay the bills on Jimmy's salary. I knew I would have to make cuts and I was ready. As I prepared to bring my case before my husband, I thought of all the things I would no longer need…expensive suits, shoes and matching purses, panty hose, (about $312 yearly!) lunches out, the ever rising cost of gasoline, and money for the occasional housekeeper. I wouldn't even use as much make up and perfume saving even more money! These things I could easily give up. After all, they were necessary for the type of job I had…but it wasn't enough. What else could I cut? The twice a month manicures and pedicures ($2340 yearly) the hair salon, ($1080 yearly) and satellite TV. It was a little tougher to give these up. A woman heading into middle age definitely needs to "keep herself up," right? And the TV, what would I do with all that time on my hands after the house work was finished by 10 a.m.? The TV, I decided was not so hard to give up…most of it was just junk anyway…distracting, worldly, damaging junk…Still not enough. What else could go…eating out? Really, wasn't there something else? It had been a long time since I really cooked with any regularity. The demands of my career and the time constraints were not really conducive to much more than grabbing something on the fly or meeting somewhere for dinner before the restaurants closed. Could I give up eating out? Still I figured the cost opposed to the price of groceries and I just could not make it come out better than eating at home. So…out it goes!!

Then, my closing…the most important part of any sale! No longer would I have to sacrifice time with my family to entertain clients, no longer would I have to call in the middle of the day to say my boss wanted me to have dinner with someone, or that I had to fly across country to take care of an issue. No longer would January, February, and March be spent in hotel room after hotel room in cities that blended together as daylight turned to night and dawned again as I drummed up new business and maintained current customers. No longer would Valentine's Day, birthdays and anniversaries have to be celebrated on alternative dates because I was out of town. It meant I wouldn't travel as much – something I used to love. So I threw that love of travel in as one of my sacrifices for the betterment of our marriage and family.

I would sacrifice that barracuda, sales and marketing rep (for that truly is who I was.) for domestic bliss. I would be here for good, old-fashioned home cooked meals. I'd have more energy. I could garden, can, and freeze therefore cutting out more expenses at the grocery store. The laundry would always be fresh, clean, folded and put away. And less wear and tear on the car was a good thing, right? It was an easy "sale"…I'll never forget the words, "Don't worry, don't stay if you are not happy, we'll make it." Could I really make these sacrifices of money and self and be happy about it? Should I be happy? Sacrifices are supposed to hurt, aren't they?

It has been a couple months now, and I don't seem to be bothered by those so-called sacrifices. Don't' get me wrong, I would love to call Cheri up, jump in the car, head out and spend my entire bonus in an all day shopping extravaganza! But, our relationship is still there…better than ever. I hate the fact that I can not buy my teenager or my grandsons everything they see and think they want, but they still love me. So was that really a sacrifice?

I love planning and preparing the meal for my family and having dinner ready when my husband comes home. We still eat out on occasion so was that really a sacrifice? I am learning to give my own manicures and pedicures and only once did I mess my hair up so bad I had to have professional intervention. Thank the Lord, my sister, Barbie, used to teach at a cosmetology school! But if I can still "maintain the beauty regiment" of this old girl, is that a sacrifice? Of course, I am having a bit of difficulty getting my eyebrows to match…they might actually become a sacrifice.

So, I sit here thinking about sacrifices…by definition it means the giving up of something valued, the giving up of something or somebody for advantage. One of the definitions listed under both noun and verb was an offering to God.

That "offering to God" thing automatically brings to mind tithing. Tithing was something I had to grow into. In the beginning, I would tithe occasionally, if I had extra money or money I had not intended to spend. I never understood the importance or the reality that is was something God expected. I thought of it as a sacrifice and always made excuses for holding on to it, and those shopping trips and the relationship it was developing between me and my new daughter-in-law was a chief example. But it was that same young woman of God who years ago told me of her commitment and the commitment of her husband to tithe. Not just on the net, but on the gross. Time and again, I heard and saw how God blessed them in their faithfulness. I decided, I just had to step out on faith and do it, and I realized that by doing what God expects us to do results in a blessing and is not a sacrifice at all.

We recently had our Faith Pledge Drive at church. It is where, we as individuals in our local congregation, pledge to give over and above our tithes to support the worldwide church of the Nazarene, our missionaries, our pastors, our colleges, etc. I am always amazed at the dollar figure pledged for our small church and we usually make it! Some would call that sacrificial giving, but is it?

In our humanness, we tend to think about sacrifices, and sacrificial giving in terms of dollars and cents. If we are already honoring God with our money then we think of our Faith Pledge offering, or giving to the building fund or other program more as sacrificial giving than an offering.

But what about us? What do we give of who we are? Our time? An hour for Sunday School, an hour for worship service, maybe an hour for mid-week service? Do we honestly think that is giving our time to the Lord? What little time we actually spend reading the Bible, praying? Is that how we sacrifice our time for God? Surely NOT!

Some of us give a little more, we teach a class, we prepare a meal, we clean the church, we sing a song…is that even sacrificial giving of our selves, our time, our talent or is that just the tithe of our selves?

What is our attitude if we are asked to pitch in and help out in the nursery, come out on a church work day? If we are content to just sit on the side lines, pay our tithes and give a little extra monetary offering from time to time, consider this: is a physical gift to a spiritual God enough? When we give of ourselves, give until we don't think there is any more to give…that is when the blessings begin to flow, that is when God fills us up, that is when we begin to grow, that is when we begin to move.

When I quit my job I thought the money, and the extras that money purchased would be a tough sacrifice. I thought the accolades, the sense of accomplishment, the success on a big level would be the biggest sacrifice, after all it defined who I was in eyes of others, but I was wrong…so very wrong. What I have gained from my so called sacrifices far exceeds what I gave up. It is the investment of my time, my energy, my focus that has made a difference in our lives, in my life.

If you would give up who you are for the Lord, just as I gave up who I was in the corporate world for my family, you too would reap benefits beyond your belief and realize…it is no sacrifice at all.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Let Freedom Ring!

It is the wee hours of the morning on July 4th and I was awakened by the sound of rolling thunder off in the distance and the treat of an upcoming storm. Finally the inability to sleep won over and I sit here at the computer at 3:00 a.m. with a cup of chocolate coffee in hand, reading my Bible and thinking about the day ahead.

Like most on this day, we are planning to gather with our family and friends for a cook out followed by swimming. Later there will be flag waving and patriotic music, followed by fireworks. This year Independence Day fell on a Friday and for many American’s the celebration will be more about the three day weekend and less about why we were granted the day off work with pay.

To think of the ‘why’ is such a sobering thought. A group of men were sick and tired of being run over by the tyranny of the “insane” King George III and decided to take a stand. And stand they did…even to the death! A band of rag tag farmers and merchants bound together by one belief over threw the well trained army of one of the first world super powers. It was not an easy task by any stretch of the means, yet they held strong through the adversity and a new nation was the result.

History shows us that freedom and death are inexplicably linked. From the American Revolution to the Civil War …to this war, the War on Terrorism…people willingly step into the fray and give their lives for freedom’s sake.

Freedom on a much higher level was also purchased by the blood of another as Christ laid down his life that we may be free from our sinful nature. With His death the new birth of man was made possible. His army did not take up arms and overthrow an oppressive dictator or engage the latest technology that he may take power by force. However, the world was forever changed as a rag tag band of fishermen, business men, and a politician were united in one belief and stood firm, and stayed the course so that all men may be free.

While the battle for the souls of men still rages (at this time) it is not fought army to army but the struggle is just as real and fraught with perilous adversity. From missionaries located in remote parts of the world to the lay leader at the local church the war wages on soul to soul as in hand to hand combat. Will you take a stand? Will you march into combat, head long and stay the course, and set men free?

John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~NIV

Matthew 20:20 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 8:2 “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. “

John 15:12-13 “my command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

2nd Corinthians 5: 17-19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us a ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pray For Your Children's Future Spouses

One of the best pieces of advice I received after becoming a Christian was to pray for my children’s spouses. My son was 11 at the time and who he would marry had never even crossed my mind. I remembered asking Ms. Lois - oh how I loved Ms. Lois! - what was I supposed to pray and how.

She led me in my first prayer for Richard and his future wife. To provide for him a Godly wife, that if she was not a Christian to put someone in her life to lead her, to begin to prepare her now to be a helpmate, a good and Godly mother for their children, to provide for him a woman who loves the Lord, with a soft heart, who earnestly seeks His will in her life and the life of her family, and to lead them in the path that they would meet and know they were the meant for each other. It became one of the prayers I said on a regular basis. Sometimes a sense of urgency would press upon me and I would pray for that faceless, nameless little girl who would one day be my daughter-in-law, that whatever she was facing right then in her life that God would keep His hand upon her.

I think back about how it looked to us like he wanted to date every girl in Central Arkansas before he finally settled down. Occasionally he would bring someone to the house for lunch or dinner but we’d never see her again. I’ll never forget, he went frog giggin’ - yes frog giggin’ one night with a bunch of his friends and he came home talking about this girl he met and that was it...he was hooked! She gigged more than frogs that night.

When he began using the "L" word I knew it was time for me to get to know this girl a little better. She had been to the house but seemed a bit shy and reserved. Of course, we are such a loud, energetic bunch I really don’t think she stood much of a chance. I began meeting her for lunch periodically and I soon knew that this was the girl I had prayed for - because even I was beginning to really love her.

She was intelligent and had a sense of humor - two things she definitely needed to survive in the Kyzer clan. She was generous, kind, sweet, and I could go on and on. Can you believe she even made sure to include me in the wedding plans and preparations? I even got to go to the photographer’s studio with them the day her wedding photographs were made. Never once did she make me feel like I was just the mother of the groom. It was not just her wedding - it was their wedding. That was just the beginning...

Richard and Cheri have been married for almost 9 years now. (WOW, has it been that long?) They have two wonderful, bright, talented, and lively little boys; Hunter and Gage. Still to this day I could not ask for a better wife to my son, a better mother to my grandchildren, a better daughter for me. Yes, God went way above whatever I could ever have imagined or expected. It’s just like Him, isn’t it?

So today, I am passing on that gem of a piece of advice I received so long ago from my "spiritual mentor." Pray for the future spouses of your children no matter how old they are. Do it today, do it now!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What Are You Lookin' At?

I guess it must be this time of year that makes me think so much of gardening. Of course, it could be that big green house in the back yard I've spent so much time in or the fact that the garden needs tending and the Farmer's Market is finally open...I don't know.

Growing up we always had a garden. Sometime in late February, Daddy would crank up that old, popping, sputtering John Deer Tractor and begin the disking and plowing. It wouldn't be long and we would all be planting seeds in the neat, straight rows.

I hated that garden...Daddy always made us work and sometimes it was spread over acres and acres. It didn't matter to him what our plans were, how hot it was, or what day of the week; when the garden needed weeding he armed all the kids with hoes. When it was time to harvest we traded in our hoes for baskets. Heaven help us if when he got home from work and our gardening wasn't done... Yep, I really hated that part...but I loved eating from it. We were allowed to eat everything we wanted, as much as we wanted, when we wanted, and we didn't have to ask permission. I've eaten fresh tomatoes and strawberries until my mouth had blisters, I've gorged myself on watermelon and cantaloupe, been hosed off, and sent back out to finish my weeding or picking. I've eaten every vegetable raw, straight from the garden - even those that are really best cooked. To this day, I love fresh vegetables and I don't really mind the work of a garden.

As I got older, I had a turn or two at the helm of old 'Poppin John." The first time my rows were a bit wavy (OK crooked.) How could that old man (probably younger than I am now!) get those rows so straight? Finally, he told me. "See that fence row at the end of the garden?" "Yes, sir." I replied. As obedient 'southern' children know, it is always sir. "Aim for the post, keep your focus on it - you always go where you are looking."

Now that I am almost 50 years old that advice rings true in a different light. In Matthew 14:22-34. Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him and heads to the mountains by himself to pray. Later that evening 'the boat was a considerable distance from the land buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.' So what does Jesus do? Takes off walking across the water...The disciples are freaking out; they think they see a ghost! But He calms them down and tells them who He is and Peter, says Lord, if that's you, tell me to come to you on the water. So He does, Peter gets out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. (v.30) But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out to the Lord, "Save Me!"

You see, as long as Peter kept his focus on Christ, he was fine. He was walking on water straight to the Lord. But...he took his eyes off Jesus, got afraid and immediately started sinking. That is just like us! Everything is going along fine and dandy, we are focused on Christ, growing, serving, making an impact on the lives of others...then something comes along and distracts us. We loose our focus, and begin sinking. It could be work, children, special projects, anything...It could be as simple as someone hurt our feelings. Now we are focused on ourselves and what we need to do, should do, or want to do. Praise God, He will reach out and grab us when we cry out!

Daddy was so right back then. You go straight to what you are focused on. If it is Jesus, you are plowing straight, if it is the world or yourself...your path gets a bit wavy and winding, you get off track and your life looks just as bad as that first garden I plowed.

My question today is what are you looking at? Where is your focus, right now? Do you need to cry out to Jesus today?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Refrigerator Reflections

Now that I have settled into this new phase of my life...you know the staying/working at home. I am excited to have time to focus on things that used to be done in a hurry, hap hazardously. Like cleaning out the refrigerator - man I should have done that a bit more often! Having an 18 year old son we usually don’t have leftovers but I also find odd things pushed up against the very back.

To this day Jake loves those vanilla pudding cups and can consume 3 or 4 in a matter of minutes but sometimes he sticks an open one in the fridge thinking he will return shortly to finish off the tasty snack. Do you know what one of those looks like after being stuck in the back of the refrigerator for a couple of weeks? It develops a crust and as the moisture slowly evaporates it leaves a hard and cracked piece of disgusting looking gunk. It makes one wonder how this thing could have ever been soft, sweet, and delicious. As I chucked that little cup into the trash I thought about the "Christian" heart, my heart.

When a person comes face to face with the Holy Spirit and accepts Christ as their personal Savior their heart becomes like that fresh pudding cup - soft and squishy. A new heart in a reborn person… how glorious, how exciting! Then along come the trials and tribulations of everyday life. It seems we are assaulted at every turn! Illness, hurtful attitudes from others, words unspoken, deeds undone, bitterness, unforgiving, merciless, vindictive attitudes, and more… in a life lived in a hurry. If we harbor these things in our hearts it is just like that pudding that has been shoved to the back of the fridge. Our hearts begin to get a crust and dry up. How do we keep that heart sweet and soft? We must be on guard and renewed daily through His Word and prayer. We have to keep the heart swept out and polished up so that He can use us in an instant.

So as you read this, please take a minute to reflect. Are you harboring something in your heart, storing up some trash in your soul? Now is the time to clean up...take it to the Lord in prayer. Give it up, throw it out, for we do not know the time or the place that He will chose to use us and we must be found ready.

It's A Dog's Life...we should be so smart!

Before Jimmy and I married I was a cat person. However, my boys have always loved dogs. Richard was the worst. I don’t know how he managed but it seemed every stray dog in the county showed up on our door step. When he was about 13 we were in a "dog free" period and he had just started the Junior Firefighter program at the local volunteer station. Jake was almost three and I decided to check out the local shelter to see if I could find a Dalmatian. Lucky me…they had one that was house broken and did a few tricks.

As our first house pet, "Backdraft" quickly became part of the family. While he was intended to be a surprise for Richard the dog had other ideas and he and Jake became fast friends. When Jake started school the dog would watch from the front window while "his boy" got on the bus. As it slowly rolled out of sight, Backdraft would head to the bedroom to sleep and watch TV. You would think the dog could tell time! At 3:00 every afternoon he would meander over to the window, poke his head through the curtains and wait - sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, but never lying down.

Before the bus was even in sight the dog would jump up and start wagging his tail. I mean, really wagging his tail. As the bus drew closer he would run to the kitchen door, back to the window and to the door again until Jake burst through and dog and boy were reunited. There were slurps from the dog, pats from Jake, giggles and wiggles, and off they would go. I know from that daily routine why people say, "Dog is man’s best friend."

Backdraft died years ago and to this day Jake misses his buddy. For many months he literally mourned the loss of ’the only dog he will ever love.’ It’s kind of odd, I think about that dog and the way he loved his boy many times. Most often as I am getting ready for church - of all places. Do I wait patiently enough on the Lord, like that dog waited every day for the big yellow bus to pull up and deposit the love of his life at the end of the long driveway? Am I as excited to see the Lord as I step in the front doors of the sanctuary as that dog was when his little boy walked in the kitchen door? After all, isn’t that the way it should be? We are going to a place where we commune with our Lord. Shouldn’t we be excited? Shouldn’t we be happy? Shouldn’t we look forward to it all week?

I ask you, just as I ask myself, to examine why you go to church. Is it for the people, the music, the programs, the Pastor? Is it because that’s what good people do? Or…are you going because it is there you see the love of your life?